Finding a VC Internship

The Career Development Office sent a number of students who are interested in finding an internship in VC to speak with me. I think I've gotten my spiel down pretty well by now, so I thought I'd put it up here. 

  • Figure out your story. Just like the process for getting into B-School you need to have a story arc that logically ends with you getting the position you want, in this case a job in VC. In my case the story revolves around the three startups I worked at, my changing interest from technology to business and markets, and from being an individual contributor to more of a mentor. Obviously your resume should be written to reflect your story.
  • Be an expert. If you're not already an expert in an area that receives venture investment find one that you can become an expert in. Recently many students have looked into clean tech and the energy fields, but there are plenty of technologies
  • Make a list of alumni. You're going to want to make a list of firms that are the size and style that interests you, then cross reference that with alumni lists. When I first started I only looked at Tuck alumni, but over time I've found that alumni from my college as well as general Dartmouth alumni have been very receptive as well. Start with the more junior people, early on you'll be asking basic questions and it's best to get those answered by people who won't mind helping to educate you. Also, don't start with your top firm, you'll get better at the phone calls as you go, so save the best for last.
  • Learn the land mines. Early on you'll discover common questions about your background and why you think you should be a VC. Start to determine which answers resonate with people, and how to cut off avenues that are not flattering to you. For instance, most early stage VC's want to see that you have some operating experience. If you started a successful startup then this is easy, but if not you'll want to tell them earlier (before they ask) about some relevant operating experience and how you believe it has given you the necessary skills. Getting out in front of tough questions can keep you from having to go on the defensive about some aspect of your skill set.
  • Cast a wide net. I ended up meeting the firm I worked for over the summer because I mentioned to a family friend what I was looking to do. She replied that "Oh, I know a person that works in venture, would you like to speak with him." That turned out to be the connection that finally did it. So tell everyone in your network what you're looking to do, you never know when it will pay off.
  • Do free work. Show how you can add value by doing some due diligence for free. Obviously you should  offer to do work in the area in which you are an expert.
  • Be prepared to wait. Everyone will tell you that VC's wait until the end of the process to make decisions. It is a simple selection filter for a VC firm, if you're not willing to wait then you're not dedicated enough; it is also a way of not having to say no. My advice, stay focused and don't apply to jobs that would force you to make an early decision (such as consulting) since they'll just add stress when you have to turn them down. It is smart to have a Plan B, just make sure that you've exhausted your options before you have to pull the trigger.  
  • Stay up on VC news. PE Hub has a great mailing list that will give you a quick view of the news of the day. VentureBeat and TechCrunch are also excellent for staying abreast of what is going on in the world of Venture.  

Those are the things that worked for me, I hope they work for others.

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